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Entries in guest blog (62)

Sunday
Apr032011

Sweet Spot: Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies Recipe by Cake Gumshoe Christine

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from Cake Gumshoe Christine Mullen, a photographer and food blogger from Ottawa, Ontario. She enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and photographing the results but ultimately hates doing the dishes. She blogs at Munchin With Munchkin.

I have the biggest weak spot for chocolate covered raisins. Every time I bite into one it brings me back to my earliest childhood memory.

I remember the specific moment I was hooked for life. It was December of 1989. My mother was on Christmas holidays and she decided to take me to see my first movie. We drove to Britannia which had both an indoor theatre and a drive in.

When we entered the theatre I was mesmerized by the speckled carpet, the sparkling ceiling and the overwhelming smell of popcorn. As we stood in line my eyes focused on a glass display case at the front
counter filled with colourful boxes of candy.

When we finally got to the front of the line my mother purchased our tickets and asked me if I wanted a treat. In my 3 years of life I rarely had candy so I knew this was a special occasion. As I peered through the glass my options were overwhelming. Without the ability to read my decision was determined solely by the colour of the box. I came to the conclusion that the purple box would contain the best treat and mother happily agreed.

With large purple box in hand we walked to our theatre and chose seats
close to the front. My memories of the movie are vague but I remember
sharing that box of raisinets and thinking my mother was the coolest
person in the whole world.

My mother is coming to visit me this week so in preparation I made these oatmeal raisinet cookies to share with her. They are incredibly soft and chewy and the chocolate covered raisins add that taste of childhood every great cookie should have.

Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

Makes about two dozen cookies

 

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tsp. baking soda
  • ½  Tsp. salt
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 ½ cups chocolate covered raisins

Procedure

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until fully combined.
  4. Stir in the baking soda, salt, and flour and mix until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Briefly mix in the oats. Add the chocolate covered raisins and stir until just combined.
  5. Scoop 1 tablespoon of cookie dough onto un-greased cookie sheets about half an inch apart.
  6. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the cookies are golden brown along the edges.

 

Wednesday
Mar232011

Not Tai Chi: Chai Tea Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Frosting Recipe from Betty Crocker Wannabe

Image and recipe c/o Betty Crocker WannabeCakeSpy Note: You know what's totally sweet? Receiving great recipes from readers. This recipe, dreamed up by Tiff of Betty Crocker Wannabe, is possibly the most delicious-sounding use of chai spice I've ever heard of: chai cupcakes with pumpkin spice frosting. As the French would say, "le nom nom nom". Here's her intro:

When I went to Nevada in December, my best friend’s daughter made me a fabulous hot drink.  It was Chai tea with pumpkin spice creamer.  I had never tried Chai before and fell in love with it!  As I was brainstorming cupcake flavors to invent, I instantly thought of a Chai cupcake with pumpkin spice frosting.  Here’s what I came up with.   Let me know what you think! (the frosting is a twist on the Perfect Cupcake Frosting recipe from Our Best Bites).

CHAI CUPCAKES & WHIPPED PUMPKIN SPICE FROSTING

CAKE:

  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. instant Chai mix (I used Spiced Mystic Chai from Sam’s)
  • 1 cup real butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, at room temp
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temp
  • 3/4 cup liquid Chai tea concentrate (I used Oregon brand from Wal-Mart)
  • 1/4 cup milk, at room temp

Procedure

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and dry Chai mix in medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In separate bowl, or measuring cup, mix together milk and liquid Chai concentrate.  Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, preferably a bowl to an electric mixer, beat together butter, sour cream, and sugar until smooth.  Add one egg at a time, beating until well incorporated.
  4. Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture.  Be sure to start and end with the flour mixture.   Do not over beat!
  5. Divide the batter among paper lined muffin tins.  Fill each paper 3/4 full.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  6. This recipe makes approximately 2 dozen cupcakes.

FROSTING: (doubled from OOB)

  • 6 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin spice coffee creamer
  • 1 cup real butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice (THIS is what makes this frosting fabulous!)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Procedure

  1. Whisk together the flour, creamer, and  milk. Heat in a small sauce pan on medium heat.
  2. Whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Let it cook, while stirring, until you can start to see the bottom of the pan.
  3. Place the mixture in a mesh strainer and stir with a rubber spatula to push it through.
  4. You should end up with a nice, smooth mixture. It’s almost like pudding before it’s set.
  5. Put this mixture in the fridge and let it cool completely, it’s fine if it stays in there long enough to get chilly, you just don’t want it warm at all. When it is chilled, you can move on to the following step.
  6. In an electric stand mixer, beat the butter,  sugar, and pumpkin pie spice for a minute or two until well combined and fluffy. You’ll want to use the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, not the flat paddle. Then while beating, add in the thickened milk mixture and the vanilla. Beat to combine and then scrape down the sides.
  7. Beat on med-high for 7-8 minutes. ENJOY!

For more of Tiff's work, visit bettycrockerwannabe.com.

Tuesday
Mar222011

Sweetness by the Bay: Cake Gumshoe Charlotte's San Francisco Picks

CakeSpy Note: My readers are totally sweet. Case in point: Cake Gumshoe Charlotte, who recently took a holiday to San Francisco and was kind enough to report on some of her sweet finds!

Just returned from San Francisco, fully loaded with sweetness. Walgreen's had big bags of M&M's 2 for 4 dollars!

I also got to sample some totally sweet treats. During a rainy walk through Telegraph Hill and into North Beach I came across this Italian French Baking Company--that's what it was called. The Nonna working the counter was on two phones getting the low down on the previous night's events and there were two older gentlemen on stools in the window, this place had a very local feel. I was there in the afternoon, so a lot of their sweet treats were sold out. I was really hoping for an almond croissant but was informed that I was too late for those. Must be a hot item.

I picked up an Almond Lemon scone, which I had for breakfast the next day. Delicious, perfect balance of the two flavours.

The next morning I walked down Market Street to the Ferry Building. I had it on good authority that I would find stalls and vendors with 'artisanal baked goods'. And I did. There was a lot to choose from but when I saw Pebbles Donuts my mind was made up.

Super friendly service from the vendor, who was not one of the bakers. She told me there are two bakers, sounded secretive. I chose a Meyer Lemon for my man, and the cinnamon sugar because the vendor said it was her favorite. They were delicious. Soft and moist, not a bit greasy at all. Yum!

That afternoon I went to the SF MOMA and when it was time for a sit down break I headed to the 5th floor cafe and found Humphrey Slocombe! They didn't have a choice of flavours, but an art inspired desert based on a work by Tony Cragg. One scoop of blood orange, one scoop of malted milk and a sugar cone. The blood orange had a bit of a salty taste to it with subtle orange flavour and the malted milk was amazing!! Just like a Malteaser, (or a whopper in the U.S.). So yummy!

Sounds like a sweet adventure!

Places mentioned:

Italian French Baking Company

Pebbles Donuts

Humphrey Slocombe

Sunday
Mar132011

Cakewalk: A Sweet Jaunt to London with Cake Gumshoe Lauren

CakeSpy Note: You know what rules? Getting bakery tips from readers. Here's a great round-up of sweet spots that I know I'll be trying next time I'm in London, thanks to Cake Gumshoe Lauren H.!

I definitely do not purport to know all of the lovely bakeries in London – it is chock full of them, as one might imagine given Britain’s reputation for afternoon tea and all of the sweets that it entails. Still, my trips to the city have left me with a couple of favorites that I thought other Cakespy readers might enjoy exploring next time they’re in London!

First, Konditor and Cook, which has several locations throughout London, largely south of the Thames.   

Konditor and Cook is very much a “drop in to grab a treat” type of place: while a couple of locations have tables, the majority are counters for tea, coffee, savories, and sweets.

I love Konditor and Cook because you can visit for everything from a breakfast treat to lunch to take-away pastries to cakes. A few highlights from many visits:

Traditional Millionaire Shortbread – Konditor and Cook is one of the only places that I’ve been able to find it in London, and it is more than delicious!  

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a proper English bakery without a collection of cakes and tarts…(pictured top of post; clockwise from the top left: Coffee Walnut Cake, Bramley Apple Tart, Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Tart, and Almond Fruit Tart.)

Konditor and Cook is perhaps best-known for its “Magic Cakes,” which are small lemon sponge cakes that are, quite honestly, almost too adorable to eat.

If you’re looking for a more sit-down, proper-English-tea experience, Bea’s of Bloomsbury is likely to be a better fit. Bea’s has been open in Bloomsbury (relatively near The British Museum) since 2008 and recently opened a new location at One New Change, just across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral. New Change is intended to be the “hip, younger sister” of the original location, and this intention is clear in the décor. Still, the sweets and service are the same at both locations.

Like Konditor and Cook, Bea’s does coffee, breakfast, and lunch, but afternoon tea is truly the best reason to visit Bea’s. The Bloomsbury location serves it from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, and One New Change serves from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday – Friday. Both locations do weekend tea from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Afternoon Tea at Bea’s takes on one of two forms. If you’re not too hungry or are looking to stay in the savory range, there’s the Cream Tea option, which consists of lovely, lovely scones and, of course, a pot of tea!

For the slightly more hungry (and cake lovers among us!), there’s the Sweet Afternoon Tea, featuring scones, cupcakes, brownies, blondies, meringues, homemade marshmallows, and other treats. I’m not entirely sure how it’s possible for one person to eat everything that comes on the tea tray (though I’ve seen people try!), but the Bea’s staff is wonderfully flexible in terms of allowing sharing and extra treats.

Here’s a peek of the Sweet Afternoon Tea at the Bloomsbury location (above)...

And one from One New Change...

And so ends my rather short cake walk – hopefully it will be helpful to the next Cakespy reader who has a bit of time to spare (and a sweet tooth!) in London!

Places mentioned:

Konditor and Cook, online at http://www.konditorandcook.comBea’s of Bloomsbury, online at http://www.beasofbloomsbury.com.

Saturday
Mar122011

Spectacular Semlor: A Sweet Trip To Lux Dessert och Choklad With Cake Gumshoe Nicholas

CakeSpy Note: So, I have a totally sweet customer named Nicholas. He's basically the ideal customer: he comes in and buys stuff, and then tells me all about the delicious sweets he eats when he travels the world. Just looking at his pictures is bound to evoke some seriously sweet wanderlust. Here's where he's been recently:

More treats! This time from Lux Dessert och Choklad in Stockholm. This is a Semla (Semlor in plural), and it's a seasonal pastry here.

It used to be that it was served only in the days before lent, but now it's available from Christmas to Easter.

This particular one was ranked best in the city, and it was really really good. The bun is cardamom, which has been hollowed out and then filled with a sweet almond paste, which is then topped with fresh whip cream and the top of the bun. 

Yeah, that's right. Get yourself to Stockholm! Curious to learn more? Learn more about Lux Dessert och Choklad here.

Saturday
Feb192011

A Baker’s Dozen: Sweet Tips for Baking in College

CakeSpy Note: Talk about knowledge you could have used in college: Cake Gumshoe Sarah (a student at Seattle University) dishes with a baker's dozen of sweet tips for the dorm-room baker!

College kids are hungry, and there is nothing they love more than baked goods. Baking at school is the perfect way to make your tummy and your friends happy. Walk through the library at 11pm handing out ice cream cone cupcakes and you might even be deemed a hero. (Plus giving away your sweet treats helps you from eating them all yourself – hello freshman 15). Here are a few tips for baking on the cheap without sacrificing homemade quality.

Oven mitts! You probably don’t give a second thought to oven mitts at home but your dorm kitchen may or may not have them. Mine doesn’t, which I learned the moment I needed to take a hot pan out of the oven. While your friend’s sweatshirt does work, it’s not ideal – invest in some oven mitts, for your hands’ sake.

Keep it simple - if you’re anything like me (a poor college student), you can’t drop twenty bucks at the grocery store on every recipe. This means saying no to recipes with a laundry list of ingredients, try to keep it under ten or so. You can make that five-layer coconut buttercream dream cake when you go home for break.

Be resourceful! If you have a meal plan (aka your parents' money), use it to your full advantage. Buy fruit at the cafeteria and if your campus has a convenience store, snag any baking products you can there. The more you can acquire on campus, the better.

Be wary of recipes that require lots of whipping or beating. I’m guessing you probably left your precious Kitchenaid mixer at home, and may not even have a hand beater. You’ll have to rely on mixing with a spoon or whisk - so sadly, fluffy frostings and meringues must wait for summer break.

Invest in the essentials – two or three mixing bowls, a wooden spoon, a spatula, a whisk, one or two pans, measuring cups, and measuring spoons can take you a long way.

No rolling pin? No problem! Remember that bottle from last night… Voila! Say hello to beautiful piecrusts at college – sometimes dreams do come true.

A lack of equipment doesn’t mean your cakes and cupcakes can’t still be beautiful. You can pipe store bought frosting from a Ziploc bag and use candy and sprinkles to create fun, delicious finished products.

Avoid ingredients that you only need a half-cup of and will never use again. I’ve been dying to make vanilla chai cupcakes, but I can’t quite justify buying vanilla bean paste and cardamom when I only need half a teaspoon of each. Recipes with just a few simple and common ingredients are your friend! And won’t make your baked goods any less scrumptious.

Use your imagination to improve boxed cake mix – saves you money and time! Add shredded coconut, peanut butter, or Nutella to chocolate cake or brownie mix. Throw some mashed up bananas and chocolate chips into vanilla cake mix. Swirl some chopped nuts, coffee syrup, mint extract, or peanut butter into vanilla frosting for an exciting and tasty topping for your cakes and cupcakes.

Frozen puff pastry is the secret key to fancy looking but super easy and yummy desserts. It’s cheap and found in any grocery store. Make homemade pop tarts, jam filled turnovers, or simply layer baked puff pastry with vanilla pudding and fresh fruit. You can also use puff pastry for savory appetizers like herb and cheese wheels or baked Brie. A simple way to bring classy to college.

If you don’t have a pie pan or a fridge to chill your dough, the galette may be your new favorite vehicle for fruit filling in a flaky crust. Super simple, fancy looking, and just as tasty as your favorite pie, the galette is just pie dough rolled out with fruit filling placed in the middle and the remaining dough wrapped up around the sides. The rustic appearance of this dish means it doesn’t have to look perfect, taking the pressure off rolling out a perfect crust. Works well with apples, peaches, and berries.

Collaborate! Baking is easier with friends and more fun too! You can share ingredients, supplies, and the baked goods at the end. Just make sure to clean up the kitchen or face the wrath of your RA and floormates.

Depending on your level of generosity, you may need to be ready to protect your baked goods. People will see you carrying a brownie pan, detect the delightful smells from the kitchen, and try to acquire some of your treats. Be prepared to fight off these hungry dorm dwellers. Or share to your heart’s content.

Happy Baking!

About the student: Sarah Spiller is a nursing student at Seattle University, an aspiring baker, and an overall lover of food. She refuses to take sides in the pie/cake debate and can’t think of a baked good she doesn’t like.

Friday
Jan142011

CakeSpy Undercover: Cake Gumshoe Phuong Visits Eat Cake! in Newburyport, MA

CakeSpy Note: Want the best bakery suggestions? Ask a local! Read on to discover Boston-based Cake Gumshoe Phuong's most recent bakery visit: to Eat Cake! in Boston! You might want to check out her sweet online shop, too!

How yummy does this cupcake sound? 

Pumpkin spice cupcake with a cinnamon nutmeg spice buttercream dipped in butterscotch.

How about a coconut cupcake with a gooey coconut topping and vanilla buttercream with toasted coconut on top? Or a chocolate fudge cupcake dipped in chocolate with an Oreo buttercream and then dipped in chocolate again?

These are just a few of Hilary Larson’s decadent creations at Eat Cake! in Newburyport, MA. Hilary is a fan of CakeSpy and has invited us for a tour of her new cake studio. Eat Cake! specializes in party and wedding cakes that are freshly made from the highest quality ingredients. Everything is made-to-order so nothing is ever frozen.

I knew I was walking into something special when I smelled the sweet buttery aroma that permeated the street even before I stepped into the cake studio. It smelled even more amazing inside. I was greeted by smiling faces and a counter full of luscious cupcakes. Freshly-baked cupcakes are a new offering at Eat Cake! and they’re definitely a big hit with the locals. Like me, everyone was having a hard time picking out what they want. (Did you read the descriptions of these cupcakes at the beginning? Yeah, it was definitely difficult.)

Hilary was so welcoming and allowed me to roam around freely. The studio’s open layout creates such a comfortable atmosphere. While I was there, mini cupcakes were being filled with lemon curd and raspberry preserves. I find it so wonderful that they would take the time to fill mini ones. I can only imagine how great those will taste. I have to say that the sweetest surprise was little Charlie (Hilary’s baby) just hanging out in the back observing everything. 

Hilary generously sent us off with four cupcakes to try. My boyfriend and I couldn’t wait to taste them. I love the bright pink boxes that the cupcakes were packaged in. I also couldn’t get over how great the single cupcake container was. I’ve never seen this type of container before.

It guarantees that your cupcake will safely make it to its destination before being devoured. All of the cupcakes were delicious. They were so fresh and moist. The flavors were amazing! My absolute favorites were the pumpkin and coconut ones. The pumpkin cupcake was perfect for the fall. The spices and the butterscotch complimented each other so well. One bite and it made me think of the holidays. The coconut cupcake was a coconut lover’s dream. I love how the gooey coconut topping peeked out underneath the vanilla buttercream. These cupcakes just took me to my happy place.

So if you’re ever around Boston’s North Shore, make sure to stop by Eat Cake! You won’t be disappointed. I can’t wait to custom order a cake from Hilary one of these days. The flavor menu on the website is incredible; so many delicious possibilities!

With that, I’ll leave you with two more cake-lust inducing cupcake pictures of flavors that I didn’t have the chance to try this time around. This just gives me an excuse to go back and eat more cupcakes!

*Special thanks to Hilary for inviting us to your cake studio and thank you for making this write-up super easy because your cupcakes were truly wonderful!

CakeSpy Note: As a sort of P.S. to this post, Phuong was recently able to visit CakeSpy Shop--on the same day as Bakerella! Here's a sweet picture of us all together.

Eat Cake! 9 Prince Place, Newburyport, MA 01950 (978) 465-6057; online at eatcakeonline.com

Wednesday
Nov242010

Stuff It: Stuffing Cupcakes With Mashed Potato Frosting by Ryan's Baking Blog

CakeSpy Note: Were you grossed out by the Turkey Cake I made for Thanksgiving? Well, vegetarians can rejoice with this guest post from Cake Gumshoe Ryan, whose sweet adventures can be followed via his great site, Ryan's Baking Blog! This recipe for trompe l'oeil savory "cupcakes" is far easier to make veggie! Here he goes:

This isn't technically stuffing, it's called "dressing" since it wasn't cooked inside a turkey...but I'm going to call it stuffing because it's easier. It's vegetarian too! And looks like a cupcake!!! I baked it in a cupcake tin and then topped it with some mashed potatoes. It's really perfect for Thanksgiving coming up or any dinner. It's easy to eat, compact, and gets two of your side dishes together. You could garnish it with chives or (vegetarian) bacon or just leave it as is like I did. It's super easy to make and is an easy way to impress your guests.

I prefer using an ice cream scoop to top it off but you could pipe the mashed potatoes.

You can use any kind of stuffing/dressing recipe and mashed potato recipe if you have your own favorite, my family stuffing recipe is really simple, it's vegetarian, and it's delicious. If you aren't vegetarian and would like to use broth, you can replace the water with equal parts of Chicken Broth, which is what the original recipe called for (and how I ate it before I became a vegetarian), but being a vegetarian I just use water and it still comes out tasting great.

Vegetarian Stuffing "Cupcakes" Makes about 10 cupcakes

 Ingredients

  • 1 lb loaf of bread, cut into half-inch cubes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt, more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, more to taste

Procedure

Preheat oven to 350°F and butter a muffin tin (or an 8" square pan). In a large bowl, mix together the bread cubes, water, and applesauce. Everything should be moist but not soggy, you can add a little more applesauce or water if it isn't moist enough. Mix in the salts and pepper and mix until combined, adding more to taste. Fill up muffin tin holes to the top (since they won't rise) and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the tops are slightly browned. Cover the tops with parchment paper and foil if you want a softer top, leave it uncovered for a more crisp top. Allow to cool slightly in pan, top with mashed potatoes, and serve warm.

Simple Mashed Potatoes

Makes a little more than enough for the cupcakes

  • 3 potatoes, I used russet baking potatoes, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Scant 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Garlic Salt, to taste Salt, to taste
  • Procedure

Boil potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork. Drain the water and move the potatoes to another bowl (or stand mixer) and beat with an electric mixer (or stand mixer) with the butter and cream until fluffy. Add salts to taste, or you could add cheese or anything else you like in your mashed potatoes. Use an ice cream scoop to put a heaping spoonful of mashed potatoes on each stuffing cupcake or use a piping bag and tip to make a nice design. Add garnish or gravy and serve warm.

Thursday
Nov042010

Tour de Sweet: A Chicago Cupcake Run With Ryan's Baking Blog

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post chronicling a very sweet visit to Chicago from Cake Gumshoe Ryan, whose sweet adventures can be followed via his great site, Ryan's Baking Blog! All of the text, photos, and opinions reflected below are his--read on, and enjoy! 

I'm in Chicago until Friday (then I leave for San Francisco) and was super excited to grab some delicious cupcakes. I've had a few bakeries recommended to me and I tried out a bunch so far. Chicago

Molly's Cupcakes 2536 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614

I only have one picture for this section (photo pictured top), I wasn't sure if they wanted me sitting there photographing the whole store and everything so I just focused on the cupcake. I also didn't ask if I could photograph so I was trying to be sneaky (well, as sneaky as you can be with a big DSLR camera). This is a Chocolate Decadence cupcake. They have a ton of flavors ranging from this to peanut butter nutella, minty mash-up, peach cobbler, and so much more. This cupcake was amazing. Probably the best chocolate cupcake I've had. Honestly though, I think this one was meant to share. It is a chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling, chocolate ganache on top PLUS chocolate frosting with chocolate shavings. It is a lot of chocolate and every element is so good. The cake was super moist, the mousse was smooth and chocolatey, the frosting and ganache were perfect. The shop itself is great. It is pretty large and cafe style. They have a bar you can sit at that has SWINGS. Yes, like playground swings for you to sit on to enjoy your cupcake. They also have a bunch of tables and seats to sit at, some people were working on things and a few people were having conversations. It was a really comfortable atmosphere and the staff was really nice. If all that wasn't enough to convince you to go, they have a "sprinkle station". It was a counter with shakers filled with different kinds of sprinkles, like little stars and moons or dinosaurs, that you could top your cupcake with. I thought this was a great idea. I really can't recommend this shop enough, if I lived in Chicago I'd be here every day. They are also open super early and super late. Sunday-Thursday they are open til 10pm and on Friday and Saturday til midnight.

Bleeding Heart Bakery 1955 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657

I came here twice actually, unfortunately the first time I forgot my camera.

This is a terrible picture and does not do this cupcake any justice. Like I said, I forgot my camera and had to use my blackberry. I had the Veruca Salt cupcake (above), a salted caramel cupcake with caramel filling and FOUR kinds of salt. It was amazing. The cake was dense in all the right ways, the caramel filling was delicious, the frosting was so smooth, and the salt added a ton of great flavor. My friend had a "Take A Hike" Scone, which was pretty much a trail mix scone, and he loved it. They also have a variety of vegan cupcakes in a lot of flavors. The staff was super nice and helpful, my friend had a ton of questions about the different items and the girl working knew everything.

I came back a second time to try a red velvet and I remembered my camera. I love how it was decorated and it was super delicious, a traditional red velvet. The frosting was super smooth and creamy, I don't have any complaints. The bakery has a very punk rock feel which I thought was great. They were playing punk music, had a ton of local flyers up and do a lot of community building and clearly care about the people that live in Chicago. The tables were cut out like cupcakes, there was a couch and coffee table by the front window, and they had pretty awesome shirts for sale (if I had more money to spend I definitely would have gotten one or five). They definitely make you feel comfortable. That is a big thing that I liked about both this bakery and Molly's Cupcakes. I felt like I should sit down and enjoy my cupcake there, it was a relaxing environment and very welcoming.

Sweet Mandy B's 1208 West Webster Avenue Chicago, IL 60614

Sweet Mandy B's is a bakery in Lincoln Park with a lot of pastel colors. Their frostings were all tinted light pink or light blue or another pastel and the shop had a cozy feel to it. It's has another section for an ice cream shop and that is where the seating is. It was hectic in there so I got my cupcake to go.

They had the normal flavors as well as orange and lemon and this french toast cupcake. It's cinnamon cake with maple frosting. This cake was made well, super soft and a strong (but not overwhelming) cinnamon taste. The frosting was a perfect consistency and it was just the right amount. It tasted exactly like french toast. They also offer a ton of cookies as well as cakes, puddings, and ice cream. It was easy to see why they had so many customers.

Sprinkles 50 E Walton St, Chicago, IL 60611

Everyone knows about Sprinkles. The first cupcake-exclusive bakery to hit the world. They opened in 2004 and have enjoyed a ton of success. Many of their cupcakes sport the signature dot that many people have come to recognize as Sprinkles. This was the cupcake shop I was most excited about for the obvious reason: it was the first cupcake shop and EVERYONE talks about Sprinkles. I planned on going twice during my trip to sample various flavors because of how much I've heard but I don't think I'll be going back, not even to try the famous red velvet everyone talks about.

This is the key lime cupcake, a summer exclusive flavor. The frosting has a STRONG key lime flavor and the cake has a more subtle but noticeable flavor to it. Both were delicious. The cake was extremely soft and fluffy, perfectly moist, and overall delicious. I was satisfied. This is the milk chocolate cupcake: chocolate cake with milk chocolate cream cheese frosting. I think the frosting really killed this cupcake for me. Maybe I'm just not a huge fan of cream cheese frosting but it wasn't that chocolatey. I wanted that candy-bar-milk-chocolate taste and I just didn't find it. This cupcake wasn't that pretty compared to the key lime I had. The cake itself was pretty good but it felt kind of doughy in my mouth. It makes me believe the Sprinkles cupcake craze is about decent cupcakes and a lot of branding. They aren't bad cupcakes by any means, but not the best I've had. The store itself has a very modern look to it. I really like modern design, especially in homes, but I like cozy cupcake shops. Mismatched furniture, comfy seats, someplace you can sit down and feel comfortable. Sprinkles only had four or five stools and a lot more customers than that, it didn't seem like they encouraged you to sit and stay.

More Cupcakes 1 East Delaware Place, Chicago, IL 60611

More cupcakes is a small cupcake shop in downtown Chicago. Literally small. It's a tiny shop without any chairs and a small table to stand and eat at. The cupcakes are displayed in a big glass box thing. It was a little confusing and the labels were tiny, I also couldn't tell what flavors they had that day..maybe they had all of them? I had a black and white cupcake, a vanilla and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and covered in chocolate shavings. I originally wanted a white velvet but wasn't sure if they had it (I only saw the display one). The cupcakes are taller than normal cupcakes and this one had a lot of frosting. It took three or four bites to get to the actual cake part and it was awkward to eat because of it's height. The cake was a little dry too.

They also had mini cupcake samples, I grabbed the chocolate passionfruit, chocolate cake with passionfruit frosting. I've never had passionfruit before and it turns out I don't actually like it. The man in front of me did sneak an extra sample so they must have been good. Not all the cupcakes had a ton of frosting so maybe some of the others are better. I started feeling a little sick by the end of mine though. As much as I hate to say it, I wouldn't go back there.

(CakeSpy Note: I should say that I too have visited More Cupcakes, and had a much better experience than Ryan; like so many things, it could have just been his visit, or different tastes. Any reader thoughts?)

In Closing

If you are in Chicago, go to Bleeding Heart Bakery and Molly's Cupcakes. If you're in the Lincoln Park area, go to Sweet Mandy B's. Try Sprinkles, maybe you'll like it more than I did, it ended up being more of a "cupcake history" kind of thing for me. And finally, if you're a frosting fiend, go to More. Or get one of their cupcakes without a ton of frosting.

Don't forget to keep up with Ryan's sweet adventures at Ryan's Baking Blog!

Monday
Nov012010

Live and Let Pie: Bourbon Orange Pecan Pie Recipe from megpies

CakeSpy Note: This is a guest post from the very talented Megan of megpies--let's let her take it from here!

Hello Everyone! I’m Megan from megpies and I’m so thrilled to be a guest on Cakespy!

One year ago, I started a small pie business completely by accident. In fact, this Thanksgiving marks megpies’ first anniversary! Sharing its Anniversary with Thanksgiving is only fitting since it’s my favorite holiday. The smell of food cooking early in the morning, having people over, getting the linen napkins out…these are the things that make it special. Now that megpies is born, it makes it all the more dear to my heart.

In honor of the Thanksgiving season coming up I would like to share one of my most popular pie recipes – Bourbon-Orange Pecan Pie. It’s not Thanksgiving without pie! In fact, my family is so into pie that traditionally we will eat pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning. Our reasoning is that we’d rather not wait until we’re too full of dinner to enjoy the pie! So pie is first on Thanksgiving – it’s our favorite part after all! I hope you enjoy it at your Thanksgiving table this year.

Bourbon-Orange Pecan Pie

Photos by www.halliewestcott.com

  • 1 uncooked pie crust
  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 tbl – 1 ½ tbl orange zest
  • 2 tbl bourbon
  • ¼ cup melted unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (plus 1 cup for decoration) Pecan halves

 Procedure

  1. Place the uncooked pie crust into a 9” pie pan and gently form into the pan. Crimp the edges as desired. Place the pie shell in the fridge while you prepare the filling.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Wisk the eggs and add the brown sugar and corn syrup. Wisk again to combine.
  4. Add the salt, orange zest and bourbon. Wisk again to combine.
  5. Add the melted butter and wisk until combined.
  6. Pour in 2 cups Pecan halves and toss.
  7. Pour the mixture into the pie crust shell
  8. Arrange the remaining cup of Pecan halves around the outer edge of the pie.
  9. Place the pie on a baking sheet and wrap the edges in foil to prevent the crust from burning.
  10. Bake on the bottom rack of your oven for 40-50 minutes until the top looks dry and starts to rise a bit. Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

 megpies Tips:

  1. While forming the crust to the pan, be careful not to stretch your dough. Any stretching you do now, will shrink as it bakes.
  2. I use several pieces of tin foil to wrap the edges of the pie while it bakes. There are other methods such as the metal pie baking rings, etc. but I’ve found that good ‘ol tin foil works best. It’s a little harder to get it in place, but don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make sure the shiny side of the foil is facing the outside.

Thank you all for spending some time with me today. You can find more of my work here, and I would love to hear about your Thanksgiving traditions in the comments below! Happy Holidays!

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